Monthly Archives: May 2014

Expressed Love is the Evidence of Love

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

– I John 3:16-17 NIV

 

Oftentimes you will hear people say that if you wanted to understand the meaning of something in the dictionary, when you turn to the page you were seeking you would find the picture of someone’s face instead of words and by seeing their face you would know what that word meant. Being an artist myself, I would like to think that when you open the dictionary to look up the word creative you would find a photograph of me with one of my masterpieces hanging behind me in the National Gallery of Art as part of their permanent collection!

When someone opens the dictionary to better understand the meaning of a word, where would they find your picture? Let me guess, awesome right? John, one of the twelve disciples that spent 3 years following Jesus closely and serving with Him in ministry, writes for us his interpretation of Jesus in his letter titled I John. In I John 3:16, we see John using Jesus to help us understand what love is and identifies how love is defined by what Jesus did. Jesus demonstrated love by laying down His life for us. The love that Jesus has for us is demonstrated by His actions. It was God’s plan for Jesus to lay down His life for us, so the act of love demonstrated by Jesus was inspired by God.

God so loved us that He had His Son die for us. God’s love for us was demonstrated by His act of allowing His Son to die for us. In fact I John 4:7-8 tells us that love comes from God because God is love. Jesus loved His Father so much that He was willing to die for us. Jesus, the Son of God, was willing to model what His Father represented, stood for and practiced through sacrificing His Son for us. Colossians 1:15 refers to Jesus as the image of the invisible God and in Hebrews 1:3 the bible says that Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being. So if I looked up God and love in the dictionary, according to the bible, I would see Jesus on the cross, because according to John, Colossians and Hebrews Jesus is the image, or representation of God in the earth, and His death on the cross demonstrates God’s love, whom the bible says is love.

Do your actions, daily, reflect God’s image of Jesus Christ and His standard of love modeled by Christ’s death on the cross? Pray to God and ask Him to help you sincerely seek to be an imitator of Him and live a life of love so when others want to know what love is they can read your life.

May God bless you and help you to grow in being conformed to the image and likeness of Christ so others may come to know and rely on God’s love expressed in Christ through you.

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Excerpt: Introduction from Out of the Darkness

Introduction

Alone in the Darkness

 

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that the darkness will spread over Egypt¾darkness that can be felt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.

– Exodus 10:21–23 (NIV)

Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.

– Job 23:17 (NIV)

I invite you to take this journey with me toward the discovery of a deeper understanding of the subject of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Through the illumination of scripture, along with personal insights revealed through childhood and adulthood experiences, I offer to those who sojourn with me through the pages of this book an opportunity to grow in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. I aspire to build up and strengthen the faith of those who, like me, desire to grow in the grace, truth, and knowledge of Jesus Christ and the assurance of what God teaches in His word on the subject of salvation. I pray that the eyes of your heart will be illuminated with His grace and truth through the revelation of Jesus Christ conveyed in this book.

Imagine yourself a child again, alone in your bedroom. You have said your prayers and have been tucked in and kissed good night. You have exchanged I love yous. It is nighttime, but sleep has failed to come to you. You remain awake, unable to drift away into slumber and rest. The house is now still and eerily quiet, and your room is dark. The warm, comforting feelings you felt a moment ago have been ushered away by shadows that creep along the walls, brought to life by the imagination of your mind and your fears of the dark. You now lie in your bed, paralyzed by the haunting, echoing thought that you are not alone in your room. “Someone is watching me,” you hear yourself say, and you ignore the gentle whisper within your heart that seeks to reassure you that there are no such things as ghosts or monsters.

The terror within your mind grips you like a boa constrictor squeezing the life out of its prey. You hear a deafening silence ringing in your ears. Your eyes search hopelessly within the darkness for the comfort and security of a familiar object that will release you from the sudden terror that has a stranglehold on your senses. Objects within the room appear to dance and shift within the shadows. You think to yourself that you should jump from under the covers and dash to the safety and security of your parent’s embrace. The weight of anxiety and fear of the dark presses you firmly against your bed, and every movement appears to last an eternity.

You want to cry out, but the terror you feel is not only inhibiting your ability to move but is also preventing you from crying out for help. Your tongue seems to have frozen to the insides of your mouth, and you are left motionless and speechless. You cannot cry out, but in your heart you scream and shriek with a sound that is as deafening as the silence that surrounds you. Unable to alert your parents to your distress, you begin to sense that the darkness within your room is now within you. It is a darkness that you can feel. Your imagination is now in overdrive, and it has convinced you that the darkness within your room is going to hurt you.

In your anxiety, you begin to wonder if this night will ever pass. Your eyes search the darkness for some point of reference that will bring you peace. Instead, you fixate on something that only heightens and increases your fear. The doorway to your bedroom closet is open!

Without warning, you feel as if you’re being pulled, against your will, into the closet. As this dark force pulls at you, your horror increases. You sense that you are outmatched in a grueling tug-of-war with the anxieties of your imagination, and the closet is winning.

Just as you are about to be consumed by your greatest fear, you realize that your tongue has loosened. What was first a silent siren of inner turmoil becomes the whimpering and mumbling of a child who is afraid of the dark. Your mutterings mimic the shrieks and cries you made when you rode the amusement park roller coaster. These sounds fall like feathers on the ears of the world outside your bedroom. You begin to notice that these meek sounds, though frail and faint, are strong enough to prevent you from being pulled through the closet doorway. With all the energy and strength you have, you summon the courage to cry aloud in the hope that you will be rescued from the fright that grips you. You shout! And then you shout even more loudly a second and a third time!

Suddenly the pull of the closet is chased away by the embrace of love! A flood of light engulfs your bedroom, shatters your fear of the darkness, and drives away the anxiety within you. You are blinded and startled by the light. Through squinting eyes, you can barely make out a face, but the soothing, gentle voice and the touch of compassion drive out worry and distress and replace them with comfort and peace. You are saved! Your weak cries of fear have brought rescue. Having the courage to cry out for help has delivered you into a loving embrace and has freed you from the anxiety of being consumed by your bedroom closet.

You rejoice, knowing you are safe, free, and loved. You don’t think about the reality of facing this experience again¾or the inevitability of the darkness coming back to torment you. Though you were momentarily troubled, you are tranquil in the embrace of love, trusting that you are safe and out of harm’s way. Before you know it, you drift off to sleep, and when your eyes open again, it is morning, and the darkness has given way to the light of dawn.

Your fear has subsided, and the bedroom glistens with the sun’s morning rays that break in through the windows. The light has transformed the ominous closet into a storage room filled with scrapbooks, toys, clothes, and shoes. You reach into your closet without hesitation to put on something to wear, intent on enjoying the day ahead of you.

If you’ve ever experienced the fear of being in the dark, then I am sure you can relate to the story I’ve invited you to envision. For some of you, this scene may be just as real today as it was when you were a child. Fear of the dark and of being consumed by my closet were among my own childhood experiences. In the process of writing this book, I reflected on those times. They remind me of my growing personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. They reflect God’s eternal gift of salvation made available through Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave.

Within the pages of this book, I seek to share insights I have gained through God’s unfailing, unconditional love at work in me. This is my personal memoir and testimony of how He spoke the light of salvation into the darkness of my world and began His great work of creating the life of His Son in and through me. Since receiving salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, His words in Psalm 34 and 2 Timothy have provided me an escape from the darkness of this world.

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all of my fears” (Psalm 34:4 NIV).

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV).

Seven times in Psalm 34, the author exclaimed that God would provide deliverance from troubles, fears, and afflictions. In each instance, the author declared a personal pursuit of deliverance through seeking the Lord, crying out to Him, and demonstrating reverential fear or respect toward Him.

Do you have a personal closet of darkness that you fear will consume you? It may be a closet of addiction, abuse, adultery, promiscuity, guilt, shame, grief, fear, pride, or insecurity. We all face fears of being consumed by something within us or outside of us. The Lord lovingly entreats and invites us to look to Him, to call upon His name and cry out to Him so we can be delivered from the fears, afflictions, and troubles we face in the darkness of this world. God desires to liberate us from the past sins and failures that haunt us, to provide healing from the pain that torments our souls, and to stand at our side to strengthen us. It is God’s desire to equip, enable, and empower us to overcome and prevail against the troubles of life that threaten to steal our enjoyment, our prosperity, and our future hope.

God has become a great light for me in this dark world, helping me learn to overcome my personal closets of fear, abuse, abandonment, low-self esteem, isolation, and my soul’s yearning to be embraced, loved, affirmed, accepted, and valued. I am growing in this relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. The circumstantial darkness of this world¾along with the reality of the darkness within me because of sin¾drives me to desire that His love will draw me ever closer to Him. In His word, God invites me to see Him as my hiding place and refuge, which shelters me from the darkness that surrounds me.

After years of longing and seeking for what my soul understood love to be, I am learning to accept and receive love from the Lord, who promises to supply all my needs and to satisfy my desires with good things. “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits¾who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles” (Psalm 103:2, 5 NIV). At one point as a young adult in my early walk with Christ, I remember a friend saying to me that, before I became a Christian, I always looked as if I was searching for something. Amazed, I replied to him, “Was it that obvious?”

Looking back, I realize that my soul was longing for and searching for God, because God is love. I have since learned that God is the only one who can love me in the way my soul longs and needs to be loved. The pain and torment associated with growing up in a fragmented family and with being sexually abused produced feelings of abandonment and isolation. The tragedy of a failed marriage continued the cycle of family dysfunction into my adulthood, which precipitated intense feelings of loneliness, grief, and haunting thoughts of a life filled with emptiness without love.

Out of the Darkness describes God’s personal call for me to walk away from the pain of the past, the torment of failure, sin and emptiness, and thoughts of a hopeless future. It was a call to trust Him, to believe that He has plans to help us prosper, plans for our good and not for evil, plans to give us hope and a future filled with promise and rejoicing!

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile’” (Jeremiah 29:11–14 NIV).

You can purchase your copy today from the link on this site!

'Darkness should be embraced as a means to overcome it.'

 

A Love that Gives & Sacrifices

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

– John 3:16 NIV

 

 

What would you do if you were asked to give your most treasured possession to someone else who needed it, or would benefit from it more than you would? Think of something that you feel is very valuable to you and felt that you could never part with it and then imagine having to give it to someone who, by their behavior, did not deserve it. Someone who, after receiving it from you, may not treat it with the same appreciation, value and honor as you would. Would you give it to them? Would you set conditions for them to receive it before they can accept your gift?

Since the beginning of time God has expressed His great love for us freely and generously through His most treasured possession, His Son Jesus Christ! Even while we were in sin, apart from Him, and rejecting the desire to seek after Him, God gave His Son for us. He sacrificed His Son’s life so we may live and not perish apart from Him for all eternity. Throughout history many have rejected God’s love offering of eternal life, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, or have not treated this great gift with the same value, affection and respect that God expresses towards His Son, the One in whom the bible says He is well pleased. It is evident in scripture that God’s love for mankind is so great for us that He was willing to give His Son’s life in exchange for ours.

God’s concern for us and care for those who trust in Him, by faith in Jesus Christ, demonstrates that though we may not have deserved His love, or did anything to earn it, He cared enough about us to give His love to us. God sacrificed His Son so we may know and share the tender love He has for us in Christ Jesus. He desires that we know and rely upon that love that He has for us. God’s example of love, modeled through His act of grace in Christ’s death on the cross, is the standard by which we are all measured when we seek to express our love for Him and others. Are you willing to give and sacrifice?

If you have ever wondered, questioned, or asked how you could begin to show your love for God, get to know Him better, go to heaven, or how to get “saved,” begin by being willing to give your heart to God in prayer. Believe in your heart what His Son did on the cross and then sacrifice your life of wanting to live for and please yourself and then be willing to live for and please God through reading and obeying His word. A life committed to God requires giving and sacrifice. God did that for you, through Jesus. Are you willing to give yourself and sacrifice your life for Him? Is it too much to ask of us knowing what Christ was asked to give for us from God the Father? Pray and ask God the Father to help you follow in the steps of your big brother Jesus Christ and learn to give yourself for Christ like He gave Himself for you.

May God bless you and help you to demonstrate His love that gives and sacrifices so that others around you may be compelled, inspired, and moved to glorify God by your example.

Faith says, ‘Go!’

“Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the LORD be with you.'”

– 1 Samuel 17:37b NIV

Some say today the Bible is outdated, irrelevant, and out of context to the reality the way the world is today. What do you say?

Would this be similar to the inquiry Jesus made to His disciples of His day when He inquired, ‘Who others say I am? then challenged when He asked them directly, ‘Who do you say I am?’

Still some would argue today that the Bible is inauthentic, written by men who were imperfect, it contradicts itself, or is simply a compilation of stories with no real significance, merit, or value, save those who place such weight to what is written within its pages. What is your position?

Then there are those who accept the Bible for what it is, but struggle with context due to the cultural, time, and regional differences that make context application challenging, confusing, and not easily understood. What do you think?

Regarding the latter, this only makes what Jesus stated to Thomas, after His resurrection, resonate more vividly within me when Jesus said, ‘You believe because you have seen, blessed are they who believe and have not seen.’ That would be inclusive of those of us today who believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead though we were not witnesses to it.

Though the context of David’s life may not be similar to some of us today from a cultural, regional, or time (technology) context, closer inspection of his life will allow us to make many connections with him in context to what he encountered in the days of the recorded history of the Bible. Beginning with the context of today’s passage, David is compelled by his devotion to God to defend the name of God against Goliath who openly defies God and His people at the time we get to this point in the text. Aroused from within, David is willing to sacrifice his life for the glory of God by facing the imposing opposition regarded as Goliath. Is not the call of God for today’s Christian still, to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus?

Do we still face giants today, though they may not be behemoths like Goliath, both internal/external oppositional forces that requires faith the size of a mustard seed in order to endure, persevere beyond, overcome, and prevail against for the glory of God’s name?

Though we may not have experienced being a shepherd like David, do we not encounter seasons of life hidden in obscurity, engaged in menial tasks, believing we are called and anointed for something greater, better, and new that requires God’s favor, in the sight of men,  to lift us up out of where we are to where we desire to be?

David talked about being forsaken by his mother and father and his brothers showed disdain for him after he was anointed by the prophet Samuel, though his father did not think David worthy of such an occasion. David knows what it feels like to be disregarded, unappreciated, or seen as someone incapable of accomplishing anything of significance or important. Can you relate?

In the context of today’s scripture reference, David, despite the context of his life, believes this opportunity was meant for him! he distinguishes himself from everyone in Israel as the one who is more than capable of handling this Goliath-sized circumstance because of his God-sized faith that says, ‘Yes you can!’ How different is what David displayed and demonstrated in being compelled by faith to go and face Goliath than what God requires of His children today? Let God arouse within you an active, proactive faith that allows His power to work in, through, and around you for His glory!

May God bless you and help you to allow the power of His Spirit within you to arouse and prompt you to demonstrate an active, proactive faith that compels you to go in the way He has chosen for you to take.

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